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Subject: Professional Ethics and Responsibilities

Session 1-4
Content: Introduction to Profession, Professional, Professionalism, Ethics, Theories of
Ethics, Code of Ethics for Designer
Define Profession, Professionals, and Professionalism. Explain three
fundamental elements of profession. Explain six characteristics of
professional styles. What are the responsibilities of designer to his / her
Profession: A profession is an occupation, vocation or career where specialized
knowledge of a subject, field, or science is applied. It is usually applied to
occupations that involve prolonged academic training and a formal qualification. It
is axiomatic that "professional activity involves systematic knowledge and
proficiency." Professions are usually regulated by professional bodies that may set
examinations of competence, act as a licensing authority for practitioners, and
enforce adherence to an ethical code of practice.
Professional Body: A professional body or professional organization, also known
as a professional association or professional society, is an organization, usually nonprofit, that exists to further a particular profession, to protect both the public
interest and the interests of professionals. The balance between these two may be a
matter of opinion. On the one hand, professional bodies may act to protect the
public by maintaining and enforcing standards of training and ethics in their
profession. On the other hand, they may also act like a cartel or a labor union (trade
union) for the members of the profession, though this description is commonly
rejected by the body concerned.
Many professional bodies perform professional certification to indicate a person
possesses qualifications in the subject area, and sometimes membership in a
professional body is synonymous with certification, but not always. Sometimes
membership in a professional body is required for one to be legally able to practice
the profession;

An understanding of the root word profession is required before exploring the

behaviors that characterize professionalism.
Three fundamental elements of a profession:

(Adapted from Brown, 1971)

A value orientation to service for the welfare of society--service

orientation--welfare of others is uppermost.

Abstract knowledge used adaptably and skillfully in the area of

service--expert knowledge for the service--a theoretical framework.

Autonomy in decision-making and action relative to the service-decisions are made and actions taken based on expertise, knowledge and

These characteristics must be translated by individuals into patterns of action

that convey the image of a professional person.
Professionalism : Oxford Dictionary: the competence or skill expected of a
professional. Professionalism, is about individual modes of behaviour that command
respect and build trust. It is about excellence in service as measured by recognised
standards.It is about delivering services or working to standards that meet the
needs of and are expected by our clients.
Such behaviours are indeed a necessary part of belonging to a profession but
almost any trade could be described as professional in these terms! As any of us
here knows, what separates the professionalism of members of a professional body
from the behaviours of other types of so-named professionals, is the requirement to
continually reinforce and demonstrate our professionalism, not merely assert it
through a one-off qualification. And it is our membership of a professional body
one which embodies the distinguishing features I have defined that confers on us
the obligation to abide by professional standards and regulation.

It is therefore no longer enough for professions to say to the public you must trust
me, today we must earn that trust and demonstrate: clearly, openly and often, why
that trust should be given.

Professionalism is a passion for personal responsibility, devotion to a life of service,

commitment to a mission, and openness to new ideas and alternatives.
In contrast, technicians (or paraprofessionals) define their role narrowly, see no
larger purpose, set sights low, know enough about their work without a holistic view
of it.
Six characteristics of professional style-- a professional way of being-- summarized:

Ethical - moral standard of conduct.

a. Deals honestly with others
b. Maintains confidentiality regarding professional matters.
c. Recognizes professional biases and bases attitude and action upon a sound rationale.
d. Believes that others recognize the stature of a professional.
e. Does not misrepresent personal qualifications.
f. Faces self honestly.


Altruistic - regard for and devotion to the interest of others, unselfish

a. Behaves unselfishly
b. Devotes practice to the interests of others.
c. Demonstrates motives for professional practice that are NOT selfish
d. Shows respect for others.
e. Shows positive attitude toward co-workers, children, adults, and community members.
Responsible- accountable, answerable, trustworthy, and able to respond.
a. Promises only what can be delivered.
b. Follows through on commitments.
c. Delivers on time.
d. Says no without guilt.
e. Is accountable for own actions.
f. Supports the basic tenets of the profession.
g. Develops a philosophy and sound rationale for professional practice.
h. Thinks before reacting.
Foresees possible outcomes of professional actions.
Makes decisions based on possibilities.
k. Considers the best interest of the client.
Evaluates his/her professional practice.
m. Confronts discrepancies between intentions and actions.
n. Assesses own contribution realistically.
Theoretical--systematic and abstract principles of professional action.
a. Practices critical thinking.
b. Contributes to knowledge base.
c. Shows appreciation for scholarship, research and theory.
d. Presents the theoretical foundation of ideas and actions.
e. Evaluates own professional practice in light of new conditions and knowledge.
Committed--a lifetime of devotion.
a. Spends time beyond the call of duty.
b. Belongs to and takes an active part in professional organizations.
c. Identifies with the profession both when it is praised and criticized.
d. Articulates the professions philosophy and practice to the public.
Intellectual--feels responsible for continuous development of professional knowledge and skills; learning is





not a task but a way of living and being.

a. Reads current journals.
b. Keep abreast of technical advances.
c. Reads about own and related professions and specialties.
d. Interacts with colleagues to gain new perspectives.
e. Participates in conferences.


Enrolls in courses regularly.

Strives toward self-improvement.
Develops performance skills.

Covey in Principle-Centered Leadership says, Some habits of ineffectiveness are

rooted in our social conditioning toward quick-fix, short-term thinking. . . . The quick,
easy, free, and fun approach wont work . . . The only thing that endures over time
is the law of the farm: I must prepare the ground, put in the seed, cultivate it, weed
it, water it, then gradually nurture growth and development to full maturity (p. 17).
AIGA, the professional association for design, stimulates thinking about
design, demonstrates the value of design and empowers the success of designers at
each stage of their careers. AIGAs mission is to advance designing as a professional
craft, strategic tool and vital cultural force. Founded in 1914, AIGA remains the
oldest and largest professional membership organization for design, and is a
nonprofit, 501(c)(3) educational institution. AIGA (formerly an acronym for the
"American Institute of Graphic Arts) is an American professional organization for
design. In 2006, The American Institute of Graphic Arts changed its name, retaining
the acronym AIGA as its name, and adopting the descriptor line "the professional
association for design."

Standards of professional practice for Designer

A professional designer adheres to principles of integrity that demonstrate respect
for the profession, for colleagues, for clients, for audiences or consumers, and for
society as a whole.
These standards define the expectations of a professional designer and represent
the distinction of an AIGA member in the practice of design. Professional-level AIGA
members who have agreed to adhere to these standards are denoted in the
Designer Directory by an AIGA logo.
The designers responsibility to clients
1.1 A professional designer shall acquaint himself or herself with a clients business
and design standards and shall act in the clients best interest within the limits of
professional responsibility.

1.2 A professional designer shall not work simultaneously on assignments that

create a conflict of interest without agreement of the clients or employers
concerned, except in specific cases where it is the convention of a particular trade
for a designer to work at the same time for various competitors.
1.3 A professional designer shall treat all work in progress prior to the completion of
a project and all knowledge of a client's intentions, production methods and
business organization as confidential and shall not divulge such information in any
manner whatsoever without the consent of the client. It is the designers
responsibility to ensure that all staff members act accordingly.
1.4 A professional designer who accepts instructions from a client or employer that
involve violation of the designers ethical standards should be corrected by the
designer, or the designer should refuse the assignment.
The designers responsibility to other designers
2.1 Designers in pursuit of business opportunities should support fair and open
2.2 A professional designer shall not knowingly accept any professional assignment
on which another designer has been or is working without notifying the other
designer or until he or she is satisfied that any previous appointments have been
properly terminated and that all materials relevant to the continuation of the project
are the clear property of the client.
2.3 A professional designer must not attempt, directly or indirectly, to supplant or
compete with another designer by means of unethical inducements.
2.4 A professional designer shall be objective and balanced in criticizing another
designers work and shall not denigrate the work or reputation of a fellow designer.
2.5 A professional designer shall not accept instructions from a client that involve
infringement of another persons property rights without permission, or consciously
act in any manner involving any such infringement.
2.6 A professional designer working in a country other than his or her own shall
observe the relevant Code of Conduct of the national society concerned.

3.1 A professional designer shall work only for a fee, a royalty, salary or other
agreed-upon form of compensation. A professional designer shall not retain any
kickbacks, hidden discounts, commission, allowances or payment in kind from
contractors or suppliers. Clients should be made aware of mark-ups.
3.2 A reasonable handling and administration charge may be added, with the
knowledge and understanding of the client, as a percentage to all reimbursable
items, billable to a client, that pass through the designers account.
3.3 A professional designer who has a financial interest in any suppliers who may
benefit from a recommendation made by the designer in the course of a project will
inform the client or employer of this fact in advance of the recommendation.
3.4 A professional designer who is asked to advise on the selection of designers or
the consultants shall not base such advice in the receipt of payment from the
designer or consultants recommended.
4.1 Any self-promotion, advertising or publicity must not contain deliberate
misstatements of competence, experience or professional capabilities. It must be
fair both to clients and other designers.
4.2 A professional designer may allow a client to use his or her name for the
promotion of work designed or services provided in a manner that is appropriate to
the status of the profession.
5.1 A professional designer shall not claim sole credit for a design on which other
designers have collaborated.
5.2 When not the sole author of a design, it is incumbent upon a professional
designer to clearly identify his or her specific responsibilities or involvement with
the design. Examples of such work may not be used for publicity, display or portfolio
samples without clear identification of precise areas of authorship.
The designers responsibility to the public
6.1 A professional designer shall avoid projects that will result in harm to the public.
6.2 A professional designer shall communicate the truth in all situations and at all
times; his or her work shall not make false claims nor knowingly misinform. A

professional designer shall represent messages in a clear manner in all forms of

communication design and avoid false, misleading and deceptive promotion.
6.3 A professional designer shall respect the dignity of all audiences and shall value
individual differences even as they avoid depicting or stereotyping people or groups
of people in a negative or dehumanizing way. A professional designer shall strive to
be sensitive to cultural values and beliefs and engages in fair and balanced
communication design that fosters and encourages mutual understanding.
The designers responsibility to society and the environment
7.1 A professional designer, while engaged in the practice or instruction of design,
shall not knowingly do or fail to do anything that constitutes a deliberate or reckless
disregard for the health and safety of the communities in which he or she lives and
practices or the privacy of the individuals and businesses therein. A professional
designer shall take a responsible role in the visual portrayal of people, the
consumption of natural resources, and the protection of animals and the
7.2 A professional designer is encouraged to contribute five percent of his or her
time to projects in the public goodprojects that serve society and improve the
human experience.
7.3 A professional designer shall consider environmental, economic, social and
cultural implications of his or her work and minimize the adverse impacts.
7.4 A professional designer shall not knowingly accept instructions from a client or
employer that involve infringement of another persons or groups human rights or
property rights without permission of such other person or group, or consciously act
in any manner involving any such infringement.
7.5 A professional designer shall not knowingly make use of goods or services
offered by manufacturers, suppliers or contractors that are accompanied by an
obligation that is substantively detrimental to the best interests of his or her client,
society or the environment.

7.6 A professional designer shall refuse to engage in or countenance discrimination

on the basis of race, sex, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or
7.7 A professional designer shall strive to understand and support the principles of
free speech, freedom of assembly, and access to an open marketplace of ideas and
shall act accordingly.

Adopted by the board of directors of AIGA, the professional association for design, in 1994;
amended November 2010 to include items 7.2 and 7.3.

What do you mean by ethics and morality? Explain the

difference between morality and ethics with an example.
The terms morals and ethics are closely related in their original meanings. The
former comes from the Latin moralis, and the latter from the Greek ethos. Both
mean the custom or way of life. Modern usage of morality refers to conduct itself
and ethics (or moral philosophy) to the study of moral conduct. We speak of a
moral act and an ethical code.
Ethics and Morality have a different meaning in philosophy than in normal language.
In normal life these concepts are use with the same meaning (synonymous). They
have a technical meaning inside philosophy.
Morality is about personal values that guide our actions and decisions. It is generally
under the influence of the culture, society and religion. A moral statement (phrase)
reflects my conception of what is good for me. It is always from the particular point
of view of ones society or religion. We can say morality is first-order set of beliefs
and practices about how to live a good life.
Actions can be divided into three categories:
1. Moral actions: When the actions reflect a person 's values and those of
society .

2. Immoral actions: The actions of a person go against a person's or societys

moral values. The actions which are considered to be evil, sinful, or wrong according
to some code or theory of ethics
values. For example telling a lie is immoral action. An immoral action can also be a
violation of a rule or code of ethics.
3 Amoral actions: When the actions do not reflect choices based on values.
These actions do not have moral standards, restraints, or principles; unaware of or
indifferent to questions of right or wrong. For example, telling a lie by a very young
child is called "amoral" because such people have no feeling or understanding of
the concepts of right and wrong. Taking a sip of water can be described as nonmoral
as well as amoral in sense (1). If the water contains hemlock and the subject
intentionally sips it with indifference to the wrongness of suicide, then the action
would not be described as nonmoral but would be properly called amoral.
"Nonmoral" actions would be those actions where moral categories (such a right
and wrong) cannot be applied (such as matters of fact in scientific descriptions).
Ethics refers to well based standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans
ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or
specific virtues. Ethics, for example, refers to those standards that impose the
reasonable obligations to refrain from rape, stealing, murder, assault, slander, and
fraud. Ethical standards also include those that enjoin virtues of honesty,
compassion, and loyalty. And, ethical standards include standards relating to rights,
such as the right to life, the right to freedom from injury, and the right to privacy.
Such standards are adequate standards of ethics because they are supported by
consistent and well founded reasons.
Ethics refers to the study and development of one's ethical standards. As mentioned
above, feelings, laws, and social norms can deviate from what is ethical. So it is
necessary to constantly examine one's standards to ensure that they are reasonable
and well-founded. Ethics also means, then, the continuous effort of studying our
own moral beliefs and our moral conduct, and striving to ensure that we, and the
institutions we help to shape, live up to standards that are reasonable and solidlybased.
Why study Ethics?

a. Bringing clarity in thought and helps in reasoning

b. Reinforcement of ethics
c. Make people understand what actions are considered as ethical. If it can be
explained to them that some of their actions are not consistent with what is

ethically expected of them, they would change.

People become virtuous.
Adhering to organizational values
Build character
People can sort out moral ethical dilemmas with confidence.

Why people are unethical?

Individually most of us know what is good and what is bad. In spite of this, people
act unethical. The reasons may be as given below:
a. The persons ethical standards are different from those of society as a
whole. For example, embezzlers (To take (money, for example) for one's
own use in violation of a trust.), A con artist is an individual who is skilled
and experienced at devising and executing scams and other fraudulent
schemes. The purpose is normally to get as much money from a victim as
possible, but to do so in a way the victim actually believes they are
getting a benefit. Thus, often the con artist is gone a long time before the
victim realizes what took place. Most people who commit such acts feel no
remorse when they are apprehended because their ethical standards
differ from those of society as a whole.
b. The person chooses to act selfishly. Person A finds a briefcase containing
important papers and $1,000. He tosses the briefcase and keeps the
c. Sometimes people may not be sensitive to issue and ignore.
Different branches of Ethics.
1. Metaethics
The term meta means after or beyond, and, consequently, the notion of
metaethics involves a removed, or birds eye view of the entire project of ethics. We
may define metaethics as the study of the origin and meaning of ethical concepts.
When compared to normative ethics and applied ethics, the field of metaethics is
the least precisely defined area of moral philosophy. It covers issues from moral

semantics to moral epistemology. Two issues, though, are prominent: (1)

metaphysical issues concerning whether morality exists independently of humans,
and (2) psychological issues concerning the underlying mental basis of our moral
judgments and conduct.
a. Metaphysical Issues: Objectivism and Relativism
Metaphysics is the study of the kinds of things that exist in the universe. Some
things in the universe are made of physical stuff, such as rocks; and perhaps other
things are nonphysical in nature, such as thoughts, spirits, and gods. The
metaphysical component of metaethics involves discovering specifically whether
moral values are eternal truths that exist in a spirit-like realm, or simply human
conventions. There are two general directions that discussions of this topic take,
one other-worldly and one this-worldly.
Proponents of the other-worldly view typically hold that moral values are objective
in the sense that they exist in a spirit-like realm beyond subjective human
conventions. They also hold that they are absolute, or eternal, in that they never
change, and also that they are universal insofar as they apply to all rational
creatures around the world and throughout time. The most dramatic example of this
view is Plato, who was inspired by the field of mathematics. When we look at
numbers and mathematical relations, such as 1+1=2, they seem to be timeless
concepts that never change, and apply everywhere in the universe. Humans do not
invent numbers, and humans cannot alter them. Plato explained the eternal
character of mathematics by stating that they are abstract entities that exist in a
spirit-like realm. He noted that moral values also are absolute truths and thus are
also abstract, spirit-like entities. In this sense, for Plato, moral values are spiritual
objects. Medieval philosophers commonly grouped all moral principles together
under the heading of eternal law which were also frequently seen as spirit-like
objects. 17th century British philosopher Samuel Clarke described them as spirit-like
relationships rather than spirit-like objects. In either case, though, they exist in a
sprit-like realm. A different other-worldly approach to the metaphysical status of
morality is divine commands issuing from Gods will. Sometimes called voluntarism
(or divine command theory), this view was inspired by the notion of an all-powerful

God who is in control of everything. God simply wills things, and they become
reality. He wills the physical world into existence, he wills human life into existence
and, similarly, he wills all moral values into existence. Proponents of this view, such
as medieval philosopher William of Ockham, believe that God wills moral principles,
such as murder is wrong, and these exist in Gods mind as commands. God
informs humans of these commands by implanting us with moral intuitions or
revealing these commands in scripture.
The second and more this-worldly approach to the metaphysical status of morality
follows in the skeptical philosophical tradition, such as that articulated by Greek
philosopher Sextus Empiricus, and denies the objective status of moral values.
Technically, skeptics did not reject moral values themselves, but only denied that
values exist as spirit-like objects, or as divine commands in the mind of God. Moral
values, they argued, are strictly human inventions, a position that has since been
called moral relativism. There are two distinct forms of moral relativism. The first is
individual relativism, which holds that individual people create their own moral
standards. Friedrich Nietzsche, for example, argued that the superhuman creates
his or her morality distinct from and in reaction to the slave-like value system of the
masses. The second is cultural relativism which maintains that morality is grounded
in the approval of ones society and not simply in the preferences of individual
people. This view was advocated by Sextus, and in more recent centuries by Michel
Montaigne and William Graham Sumner. In addition to espousing skepticism and
relativism, this-worldly approaches to the metaphysical status of morality deny the
absolute and universal nature of morality and hold instead that moral values in fact
change from society to society throughout time and throughout the world. They
frequently attempt to defend their position by citing examples of values that differ
dramatically from one culture to another, such as attitudes about polygamy,
homosexuality and human sacrifice.
b. Psychological Issues in Metaethics
A second area of metaethics involves the psychological basis of our moral
judgments and conduct, particularly understanding what motivates us to be moral.
We might explore this subject by asking the simple question, Why be moral? Even

if I am aware of basic moral standards, such as dont kill and dont steal, this does
not necessarily mean that I will be psychologically compelled to act on them. Some
answers to the question Why be moral? are to avoid punishment, to gain praise,
to attain happiness, to be dignified, or to fit in with society.
i. Egoism and Altruism
One important area of moral psychology concerns the inherent selfishness of
humans. 17th century British philosopher Thomas Hobbes held that many, if not all,
of our actions are prompted by selfish desires. Even if an action seems selfless, such
as donating to charity, there are still selfish causes for this, such as experiencing
power over other people. This view is called psychological egoism and maintains
that self-oriented interests ultimately motivate all human actions. Closely related to
psychological egoism is a view called psychological hedonism which is the view that
pleasure is the specific driving force behind all of our actions. 18th century British
philosopher Joseph Butler agreed that instinctive selfishness and pleasure prompt
much of our conduct. However, Butler argued that we also have an inherent
psychological capacity to show benevolence to others. This view is called
psychological altruism and maintains that at least some of our actions are
motivated by instinctive benevolence.
ii. Emotion and Reason
A second area of moral psychology involves a dispute concerning the role of reason
in motivating moral actions. If, for example, I make the statement abortion is
morally wrong, am I making a rational assessment or only expressing my feelings?
On the one side of the dispute, 18th century British philosopher David Hume argued
that moral assessments involve our emotions, and not our reason. We can amass all
the reasons we want, but that alone will not constitute a moral assessment. We
need a distinctly emotional reaction in order to make a moral pronouncement.
Reason might be of service in giving us the relevant data, but, in Humes words,
reason is, and ought to be, the slave of the passions. Inspired by Humes antirationalist views, some 20th century philosophers, most notably A.J. Ayer, similarly
denied that moral assessments are factual descriptions. For example, although the
statement it is good to donate to charity may on the surface look as though it is a

factual description about charity, it is not. Instead, a moral utterance like this
involves two things. First, I (the speaker) I am expressing my personal feelings of
approval about charitable donations and I am in essence saying Hooray for
charity! This is called the emotive element insofar as I am expressing my emotions
about some specific behavior. Second, I (the speaker) am trying to get you to
donate to charity and am essentially giving the command, Donate to charity! This
is called the prescriptive element in the sense that I am prescribing some specific
From Humes day forward, more rationally-minded philosophers have opposed these
emotive theories of ethics (see non-cognitivism in ethics) and instead argued that
moral assessments are indeed acts of reason. 18th century German philosopher
Immanuel Kant is a case in point. Although emotional factors often do influence our
conduct, he argued, we should nevertheless resist that kind of sway. Instead, true
moral action is motivated only by reason when it is free from emotions and desires.
A recent rationalist approach, offered by Kurt Baier (1958), was proposed in direct
opposition to the emotivist and prescriptivist theories of Ayer and others. Baier
focuses more broadly on the reasoning and argumentation process that takes place
when making moral choices. All of our moral choices are, or at least can be, backed
by some reason or justification. If I claim that it is wrong to steal someones car,
then I should be able to justify my claim with some kind of argument. For example, I
could argue that stealing Smiths car is wrong since this would upset her, violate her
ownership rights, or put the thief at risk of getting caught. According to Baier, then,
proper moral decision making involves giving the best reasons in support of one
course of action versus another.
iii. Male and Female Morality
A third area of moral psychology focuses on whether there is a distinctly female
approach to ethics that is grounded in the psychological differences between men
and women. Discussions of this issue focus on two claims: (1) traditional morality is
male-centered, and (2) there is a unique female perspective of the world which can
be shaped into a value theory. According to many feminist philosophers, traditional
morality is male-centered since it is modeled after practices that have been

traditionally male-dominated, such as acquiring property, engaging in business

contracts, and governing societies. The rigid systems of rules required for trade and
government were then taken as models for the creation of equally rigid systems of
moral rules, such as lists of rights and duties. Women, by contrast, have
traditionally had a nurturing role by raising children and overseeing domestic life.
These tasks require less rule following, and more spontaneous and creative action.
Using the womans experience as a model for moral theory, then, the basis of
morality would be spontaneously caring for others as would be appropriate in each
unique circumstance. On this model, the agent becomes part of the situation and
acts caringly within that context. This stands in contrast with male-modeled
morality where the agent is a mechanical actor who performs his required duty, but
can remain distanced from and unaffected by the situation. A care-based approach
to morality, as it is sometimes called, is offered by feminist ethicists as either a
replacement for or a supplement to traditional male-modeled moral systems.
2. Normative Ethics
Normative ethics involves arriving at moral standards that regulate right and wrong
conduct. In a sense, it is a search for an ideal litmus test of proper behavior. The
Golden Rule is a classic example of a normative principle: We should do to others
what we would want others to do to us. Since I do not want my neighbor to steal my
car, then it is wrong for me to steal her car. Since I would want people to feed me if I
was starving, then I should help feed starving people. Using this same reasoning, I
can theoretically determine whether any possible action is right or wrong. So, based
on the Golden Rule, it would also be wrong for me to lie to, harass, victimize,
assault, or kill others. The Golden Rule is an example of a normative theory that
establishes a single principle against which we judge all actions. Other normative
theories focus on a set of foundational principles, or a set of good character traits.
The key assumption in normative ethics is that there is only one ultimate criterion of
moral conduct, whether it is a single rule or a set of principles. Three strategies will
be noted here: (1) virtue theories, (2) duty theories, and (3) consequentialist

a. Virtue Theories
Many philosophers believe that morality consists of following precisely defined rules
of conduct, such as dont kill, or dont steal. Presumably, I must learn these
rules, and then make sure each of my actions live up to the rules. Virtue ethics,
however, places less emphasis on learning rules, and instead stresses the
importance of developing good habits of character, such as benevolence (see moral
character). Once Ive acquired benevolence, for example, I will then habitually act in
a benevolent manner. Historically, virtue theory is one of the oldest normative
traditions in Western philosophy, having its roots in ancient Greek civilization. Plato
emphasized four virtues in particular, which were later called cardinal virtues:
wisdom, courage, temperance and justice. Other important virtues are fortitude,
generosity, self-respect, good temper, and sincerity. In addition to advocating good
habits of character, virtue theorists hold that we should avoid acquiring bad
character traits, or vices, such as cowardice, insensibility, injustice, and vanity.
Virtue theory emphasizes moral education since virtuous character traits are
developed in ones youth. Adults, therefore, are responsible for instilling virtues in
the young.
Aristotle argued that virtues are good habits that we acquire, which regulate our
emotions. For example, in response to my natural feelings of fear, I should develop
the virtue of courage which allows me to be firm when facing danger. Analyzing 11
specific virtues, Aristotle argued that most virtues fall at a mean between more
extreme character traits. With courage, for example, if I do not have enough
courage, I develop the disposition of cowardice, which is a vice. If I have too much
courage I develop the disposition of rashness which is also a vice. According to
Aristotle, it is not an easy task to find the perfect mean between extreme character
traits. In fact, we need assistance from our reason to do this. After Aristotle,
medieval theologians supplemented Greek lists of virtues with three Christian ones,
or theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity. Interest in virtue theory continued
through the middle ages and declined in the 19th century with the rise of
alternative moral theories below. In the mid 20th century virtue theory received
special attention from philosophers who believed that more recent approaches
ethical theories were misguided for focusing too heavily on rules and actions, rather

than on virtuous character traits. Alasdaire MacIntyre (1984) defended the central
role of virtues in moral theory and argued that virtues are grounded in and emerge
from within social traditions.
b. Duty Theories
Many of us feel that there are clear obligations we have as human beings, such as
to care for our children, and to not commit murder. Duty theories base morality on
specific, foundational principles of obligation. These theories are sometimes called
deontological, from the Greek word deon, or duty, in view of the foundational nature
of our duty or obligation. They are also sometimes called nonconsequentialist since
these principles are obligatory, irrespective of the consequences that might follow
from our actions. For example, it is wrong to not care for our children even if it
results in some great benefit, such as financial savings. There are four central duty
The first is that championed by 17th century German philosopher Samuel Pufendorf,
who classified dozens of duties under three headings: duties to God, duties to
oneself, and duties to others. Concerning our duties towards God, he argued that
there are two kinds:
1. a theoretical duty to know the existence and nature of God, and
2. a practical duty to both inwardly and outwardly worship God.
Concerning our duties towards oneself, these are also of two sorts:
1. duties of the soul, which involve developing ones skills and talents, and
2. duties of the body, which involve not harming our bodies, as we might
through gluttony or drunkenness, and not killing oneself.
Concerning our duties towards others, Pufendorf divides these between absolute
duties, which are universally binding on people, and conditional duties, which are
the result of contracts between people. Absolute duties are of three sorts:
1. avoid wronging others,
2. treat people as equals, and

3. promote the good of others.

Conditional duties involve various types of agreements, the principal one of which is
the duty is to keep ones promises.
A second duty-based approach to ethics is rights theory. Most generally, a right is
a justified claim against another persons behavior such as my right to not be
harmed by you (see also human rights). Rights and duties are related in such a way
that the rights of one person implies the duties of another person. For example, if I
have a right to payment of $10 by Smith, then Smith has a duty to pay me $10. This
is called the correlativity of rights and duties. The most influential early account of
rights theory is that of 17th century British philosopher John Locke, who argued that
the laws of nature mandate that we should not harm anyones life, health, liberty or
possessions. For Locke, these are our natural rights, given to us by God. Following
Locke, the United States Declaration of Independence authored by Thomas Jefferson
recognizes three foundational rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Jefferson and others rights theorists maintained that we deduce other more specific
rights from these, including the rights of property, movement, speech, and religious
expression. There are four features traditionally associated with moral rights. First,
rights are natural insofar as they are not invented or created by governments.
Second, they are universal insofar as they do not change from country to country.
Third, they are equal in the sense that rights are the same for all people,
irrespective of gender, race, or handicap. Fourth, they are inalienable which means
that I ca not hand over my rights to another person, such as by selling myself into
A third duty-based theory is that by Kant, which emphasizes a single principle of
duty. Influenced by Pufendorf, Kant agreed that we have moral duties to oneself and
others, such as developing ones talents, and keeping our promises to others.
However, Kant argued that there is a more foundational principle of duty that
encompasses our particular duties. It is a single, self-evident principle of reason that
he calls the categorical imperative. A categorical imperative, he argued, is
fundamentally different from hypothetical imperatives that hinge on some personal
desire that we have, for example, If you want to get a good job, then you ought to

go to college. By contrast, a categorical imperative simply mandates an action,

irrespective of ones personal desires, such as You ought to do X. Kant gives at
least four versions of the categorical imperative, but one is especially direct: Treat
people as an end, and never as a means to an end. That is, we should always treat
people with dignity, and never use them as mere instruments. For Kant, we treat
people as an end whenever our actions toward someone reflect the inherent value
of that person. Donating to charity, for example, is morally correct since this
acknowledges the inherent value of the recipient. By contrast, we treat someone as
a means to an end whenever we treat that person as a tool to achieve something
else. It is wrong, for example, to steal my neighbors car since I would be treating
her as a means to my own happiness. The categorical imperative also regulates the
morality of actions that affect us individually. Suicide, for example, would be wrong
since I would be treating my life as a means to the alleviation of my misery. Kant
believes that the morality of all actions can be determined by appealing to this
single principle of duty.
A fourth and more recent duty-based theory is that by British philosopher W.D. Ross,
which emphasizes prima facie duties. Like his 17th and 18th century counterparts,
Ross argues that our duties are part of the fundamental nature of the universe.
However, Rosss list of duties is much shorter, which he believes reflects our actual
moral convictions:

Fidelity: the duty to keep promises

Reparation: the duty to compensate others when we harm them

Gratitude: the duty to thank those who help us

Justice: the duty to recognize merit

Beneficence: the duty to improve the conditions of others

Self-improvement: the duty to improve our virtue and intelligence

Nonmaleficence: the duty to not injure others

Ross recognizes that situations will arise when we must choose between two
conflicting duties. In a classic example, suppose I borrow my neighbors gun and

promise to return it when he asks for it. One day, in a fit of rage, my neighbor
pounds on my door and asks for the gun so that he can take vengeance on
someone. On the one hand, the duty of fidelity obligates me to return the gun; on
the other hand, the duty of nonmaleficence obligates me to avoid injuring others
and thus not return the gun. According to Ross, I will intuitively know which of these
duties is my actual duty, and which is my apparent or prima facie duty. In this case,
my duty of nonmaleficence emerges as my actual duty and I should not return the
c. Consequentialist Theories
It is common for us to determine our moral responsibility by weighing the
consequences of our actions. According to consequentialism, correct moral conduct
is determined solely by a cost-benefit analysis of an actions consequences:
Consequentialism: An action is morally right if the consequences of that action
are more favorable than unfavorable.
Consequentialist normative principles require that we first tally both the good and
bad consequences of an action. Second, we then determine whether the total good
consequences outweigh the total bad consequences. If the good consequences are
greater, then the action is morally proper. If the bad consequences are greater, then
the action is morally improper. Consequentialist theories are sometimes called
teleological theories, from the Greek word telos, or end, since the end result of the
action is the sole determining factor of its morality.
Consequentialist theories became popular in the 18th century by philosophers who
wanted a quick way to morally assess an action by appealing to experience, rather
than by appealing to gut intuitions or long lists of questionable duties. In fact, the
most attractive feature of consequentialism is that it appeals to publicly observable
consequences of actions. Most versions of consequentialism are more precisely
formulated than the general principle above. In particular, competing
consequentialist theories specify which consequences for affected groups of people
are relevant. Three subdivisions of consequentialism emerge:

Ethical Egoism: an action is morally right if the consequences of that action

are more favorable than unfavorable only to the agent performing the action.

Ethical Altruism: an action is morally right if the consequences of that action

are more favorable than unfavorable to everyone except the agent.

Utilitarianism: an action is morally right if the consequences of that action are

more favorable than unfavorable to everyone.

All three of these theories focus on the consequences of actions for different groups
of people. But, like all normative theories, the above three theories are rivals of
each other. They also yield different conclusions. Consider the following example. A
woman was traveling through a developing country when she witnessed a car in
front of her run off the road and roll over several times. She asked the hired driver
to pull over to assist, but, to her surprise, the driver accelerated nervously past the
scene. A few miles down the road the driver explained that in his country if
someone assists an accident victim, then the police often hold the assisting person
responsible for the accident itself. If the victim dies, then the assisting person could
be held responsible for the death. The driver continued explaining that road
accident victims are therefore usually left unattended and often die from exposure
to the countrys harsh desert conditions. On the principle of ethical egoism, the
woman in this illustration would only be concerned with the consequences of her
attempted assistance as she would be affected. Clearly, the decision to drive on
would be the morally proper choice. On the principle of ethical altruism, she would
be concerned only with the consequences of her action as others are affected,
particularly the accident victim. Tallying only those consequences reveals that
assisting the victim would be the morally correct choice, irrespective of the negative
consequences that result for her. On the principle of utilitarianism, she must
consider the consequences for both herself and the victim. The outcome here is less
clear, and the woman would need to precisely calculate the overall benefit versus
disbenefit of her action.
i. Types of Utilitarianism
Jeremy Bentham presented one of the earliest fully developed systems of
utilitarianism. Two features of his theory are noteworty. First, Bentham proposed

that we tally the consequences of each action we perform and thereby determine
on a case by case basis whether an action is morally right or wrong. This aspect of
Benthams theory is known as act-utilitiarianism. Second, Bentham also proposed
that we tally the pleasure and pain which results from our actions. For Bentham,
pleasure and pain are the only consequences that matter in determining whether
our conduct is moral. This aspect of Benthams theory is known as hedonistic
utilitarianism. Critics point out limitations in both of these aspects.
First, according to act-utilitarianism, it would be morally wrong to waste time on
leisure activities such as watching television, since our time could be spent in ways
that produced a greater social benefit, such as charity work. But prohibiting leisure
activities doesnt seem reasonable. More significantly, according to actutilitarianism, specific acts of torture or slavery would be morally permissible if the
social benefit of these actions outweighed the disbenefit. A revised version of
utilitarianism called rule-utilitarianism addresses these problems. According to ruleutilitarianism, a behavioral code or rule is morally right if the consequences of
adopting that rule are more favorable than unfavorable to everyone. Unlike act
utilitarianism, which weighs the consequences of each particular action, ruleutilitarianism offers a litmus test only for the morality of moral rules, such as
stealing is wrong. Adopting a rule against theft clearly has more favorable
consequences than unfavorable consequences for everyone. The same is true for
moral rules against lying or murdering. Rule-utilitarianism, then, offers a threetiered method for judging conduct. A particular action, such as stealing my
neighbors car, is judged wrong since it violates a moral rule against theft. In turn,
the rule against theft is morally binding because adopting this rule produces
favorable consequences for everyone. John Stuart Mills version of utilitarianism is
Second, according to hedonistic utilitarianism, pleasurable consequences are the
only factors that matter, morally speaking. This, though, seems too restrictive since
it ignores other morally significant consequences that are not necessarily pleasing
or painful. For example, acts which foster loyalty and friendship are valued, yet they
are not always pleasing. In response to this problem, G.E. Moore proposed ideal
utilitarianism, which involves tallying any consequence that we intuitively recognize

as good or bad (and not simply as pleasurable or painful). Also, R.M. Hare proposed
preference utilitarianism, which involves tallying any consequence that fulfills our
ii. Ethical Egoism and Social Contract Theory
We have seen (in Section 1.b.i) that Hobbes was an advocate of the methaethical
theory of psychological egoismthe view that all of our actions are selfishly
motivated. Upon that foundation, Hobbes developed a normative theory known as
social contract theory, which is a type of rule-ethical-egoism. According to Hobbes,
for purely selfish reasons, the agent is better off living in a world with moral rules
than one without moral rules. For without moral rules, we are subject to the whims
of other peoples selfish interests. Our property, our families, and even our lives are
at continual risk. Selfishness alone will therefore motivate each agent to adopt a
basic set of rules which will allow for a civilized community. Not surprisingly, these
rules would include prohibitions against lying, stealing and killing. However, these
rules will ensure safety for each agent only if the rules are enforced. As selfish
creatures, each of us would plunder our neighbors property once their guards were
down. Each agent would then be at risk from his neighbor. Therefore, for selfish
reasons alone, we devise a means of enforcing these rules: we create a policing
agency which punishes us if we violate these rules.
3. Applied Ethics
Applied ethics is the branch of ethics which consists of the analysis of specific,
controversial moral issues such as abortion, animal rights, or euthanasia. In recent
years applied ethical issues have been subdivided into convenient groups such as
medical ethics, business ethics, environmental ethics, and sexual ethics. Generally
speaking, two features are necessary for an issue to be considered an applied
ethical issue. First, the issue needs to be controversial in the sense that there are
significant groups of people both for and against the issue at hand. The issue of
drive-by shooting, for example, is not an applied ethical issue, since everyone
agrees that this practice is grossly immoral. By contrast, the issue of gun control
would be an applied ethical issue since there are significant groups of people both
for and against gun control.

The second requirement for in issue to be an applied ethical issue is that it must be
a distinctly moral issue. On any given day, the media presents us with an array of
sensitive issues such as affirmative action policies, gays in the military, involuntary
commitment of the mentally impaired, capitalistic versus socialistic business
practices, public versus private health care systems, or energy conservation.
Although all of these issues are controversial and have an important impact on
society, they are not all moral issues. Some are only issues of social policy. The aim
of social policy is to help make a given society run efficiently by devising
conventions, such as traffic laws, tax laws, and zoning codes. Moral issues, by
contrast, concern more universally obligatory practices, such as our duty to avoid
lying, and are not confined to individual societies. Frequently, issues of social policy
and morality overlap, as with murder which is both socially prohibited and immoral.
However, the two groups of issues are often distinct. For example, many people
would argue that sexual promiscuity is immoral, but may not feel that there should
be social policies regulating sexual conduct, or laws punishing us for promiscuity.
Similarly, some social policies forbid residents in certain neighborhoods from having
yard sales. But, so long as the neighbors are not offended, there is nothing immoral
in itself about a resident having a yard sale in one of these neighborhoods. Thus, to
qualify as an applied ethical issue, the issue must be more than one of mere social
policy: it must be morally relevant as well.
In theory, resolving particular applied ethical issues should be easy. With the issue
of abortion, for example, we would simply determine its morality by consulting our
normative principle of choice, such as act-utilitarianism. If a given abortion produces
greater benefit than disbenefit, then, according to act-utilitarianism, it would be
morally acceptable to have the abortion. Unfortunately, there are perhaps hundreds
of rival normative principles from which to choose, many of which yield opposite
conclusions. Thus, the stalemate in normative ethics between conflicting theories
prevents us from using a single decisive procedure for determining the morality of a
specific issue. The usual solution today to this stalemate is to consult several
representative normative principles on a given issue and see where the weight of
the evidence lies.

a. Normative Principles in Applied Ethics

Arriving at a short list of representative normative principles is itself a challenging
task. The principles selected must not be too narrowly focused, such as a version of
act-egoism that might focus only on an actions short-term benefit. The principles
must also be seen as having merit by people on both sides of an applied ethical
issue. For this reason, principles that appeal to duty to God are not usually cited
since this would have no impact on a nonbeliever engaged in the debate. The
following principles are the ones most commonly appealed to in applied ethical

Personal benefit: acknowledge the extent to which an action produces

beneficial consequences for the individual in question.

Social benefit: acknowledge the extent to which an action produces beneficial

consequences for society.

Principle of benevolence: help those in need.

Principle of paternalism: assist others in pursuing their best interests when

they cannot do so themselves.

Principle of harm: do not harm others.

Principle of honesty: do not deceive others.

Principle of lawfulness: do not violate the law.

Principle of autonomy: acknowledge a persons freedom over his/her actions

or physical body.

Principle of justice: acknowledge a persons right to due process, fair

compensation for harm done, and fair distribution of benefits.

Rights: acknowledge a persons rights to life, information, privacy, free

expression, and safety.

The above principles represent a spectrum of traditional normative principles and

are derived from both consequentialist and duty-based approaches. The first two

principles, personal benefit and social benefit, are consequentialist since they
appeal to the consequences of an action as it affects the individual or society. The
remaining principles are duty-based. The principles of benevolence, paternalism,
harm, honesty, and lawfulness are based on duties we have toward others. The
principles of autonomy, justice, and the various rights are based on moral rights.
An example will help illustrate the function of these principles in an applied ethical
discussion. In 1982, a couple from Bloomington, Indiana gave birth to a baby with
severe mental and physical disabilities. Among other complications, the infant,
known as Baby Doe, had its stomach disconnected from its throat and was thus
unable to receive nourishment. Although this stomach deformity was correctable
through surgery, the couple did not want to raise a severely disabled child and
therefore chose to deny surgery, food, and water for the infant. Local courts
supported the parents decision, and six days later Baby Doe died. Should corrective
surgery have been performed for Baby Doe? Arguments in favor of corrective
surgery derive from the infants right to life and the principle of paternalism which
stipulates that we should pursue the best interests of others when they are
incapable of doing so themselves. Arguments against corrective surgery derive from
the personal and social disbenefit which would result from such surgery. If Baby Doe
survived, its quality of life would have been poor and in any case it probably would
have died at an early age. Also, from the parents perspective, Baby Does survival
would have been a significant emotional and financial burden. When examining
both sides of the issue, the parents and the courts concluded that the arguments
against surgery were stronger than the arguments for surgery. First, foregoing
surgery appeared to be in the best interests of the infant, given the poor quality of
life it would endure. Second, the status of Baby Does right to life was not clear
given the severity of the infants mental impairment. For, to possess moral rights, it
takes more than merely having a human body: certain cognitive functions must also
be present. The issue here involves what is often referred to as moral personhood,
and is central to many applied ethical discussions.

b. Issues in Applied Ethics

As noted, there are many controversial issues discussed by ethicists today, some of
which will be briefly mentioned here.
Biomedical ethics focuses on a range of issues which arise in clinical settings.
Health care workers are in an unusual position of continually dealing with life and
death situations. It is not surprising, then, that medical ethics issues are more
extreme and diverse than other areas of applied ethics. Prenatal issues arise about
the morality of surrogate mothering, genetic manipulation of fetuses, the status of
unused frozen embryos, and abortion. Other issues arise about patient rights and
physicians responsibilities, such as the confidentiality of the patients records and
the physicians responsibility to tell the truth to dying patients. The AIDS crisis has
raised the specific issues of the mandatory screening of all patients for AIDS, and
whether physicians can refuse to treat AIDS patients. Additional issues concern
medical experimentation on humans, the morality of involuntary commitment, and
the rights of the mentally disabled. Finally, end of life issues arise about the
morality of suicide, the justifiability of suicide intervention, physician assisted
suicide, and euthanasia.
The field of business ethics examines moral controversies relating to the social
responsibilities of capitalist business practices, the moral status of corporate
entities, deceptive advertising, insider trading, basic employee rights, job
discrimination, affirmative action, drug testing, and whistle blowing.
Issues in environmental ethics often overlaps with business and medical issues.
These include the rights of animals, the morality of animal experimentation,
preserving endangered species, pollution control, management of environmental
resources, whether eco-systems are entitled to direct moral consideration, and our
obligation to future generations.
Controversial issues of sexual morality include monogamy versus polygamy, sexual
relations without love, homosexual relations, and extramarital affairs.

Finally, there are issues of social morality which examine capital punishment,
nuclear war, gun control, the recreational use of drugs, welfare rights, and racism.
What do you understand Ethical dilemma? How can you resolve ethical
Ethical Dilemmas: An ethical dilemma is a situation a person faces in which a
decision must be made about appropriate behavior. Generally speaking, there are
two major approaches that philosophers use in handling ethical dilemmas. One
approach focuses on the practical consequences of what we do; the other
concentrates on the actions themselves. The first school of thought basically argues
"no harm, no foul"; the second claims that some actions are simply wrong. Thinkers
have debated the relative merits of these approaches for centuries, but for the
purpose of getting help with handling ethical dilemmas, think of them as
complementary strategies for analyzing and resolving problems. Here' s a brief,
steps to follow to resolve ethical dilemmas:
1. Obtain the relevant facts.
2. Identify the ethical issues from the facts. Based on the facts measure up
against moral principles like honesty, fairness, equality, respecting the dignity
of others, respecting peoples rights, and recognizing the vulnerability of
individuals weaker or less fortunate than others. Think if any of the actions
that under consideration cross the line," in terms of anything from simple
decency to an important ethical principle. If theres a conflict between
principles or between the rights of different people involved, is there a way to
see one principle as more important than the others? What were looking for
is the option whose actions are least problematic.
3. Determine who is affected.
4. Identify the alternatives available to the person who must resolve the
5. Identify the likely consequence of each alternative. Consider the range of
both positive and negative consequences connected with each one. While
looking at consequences one can see at following questions as given below:
a. Who will be helped by what you do?
b. Who will be hurt?
c. What kind of benefits and harms are we talking about? After all, some
"goods" in life (like health) are more valuable than others (like a new
VCR). A small amount of "high quality" good can outweigh a larger

amount of "lower quality" good. By the same token, a small amount of

"high quality" harm (the pain you produce if you betray someones
trust on a very important matter) can outweigh a larger amount of
"lower quality" pain (the disappointment connected with waiting
another few months for a promotion).
d. How does all of this look over the long run as well as the short run. And
if youre tempted to give short shrift to the long run, just remember
that youre living with a lot of long-term negative consequences (like
air and water pollution and the cost of the S&L bailout) that people
before you thought werent important enough to worry about.
6. Decide the appropriate action.